Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and "it feels true"

Bruno Loff, modified 11 Years ago at 6/1/11 10:52 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 6/1/11 10:46 AM

Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and "it feels true"

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Here is something Tarin wrote to me a while back around the time I got stream-entry.


that subtle background of whispers emanates from deep within what is considered 4th jhana territory and, interestingly enough, gets touched upon a bit during the peak of arising and passing territory as well (though usually only briefly and in a way that cannot stabilise). it is from there that many unusual things arise.. among them are: the mundane psychic powers[1]; direct access to any jhana or nana at any time[2]; supramundane experience[3]; opportunities for deep exploration into what appear to be the core underpinnings of personal as well as impersonal consciousness[4]; and, last but not least, huge, and possibly lasting, swells of delusion[5].

[1] such as the ability to understand causality to tremendous degrees, resulting in an ability to 'see' past and future lives, the ability to see and hear, in the mind's eye and ear, things happening at distant locations, and the ability to intuit the feelings and thoughts of others.
[2] rather than having to proceed through them sequentially.
[3] that is, fruition/cessation.
[4] these are the vibratory murmurs from which feelings, and then thoughts, are formed; listening closely results in all sort of weirdness, much of which is not relevant to the matter of resolving fundamental suffering yet may help one develop an appreciation for why resolving fundamental suffering is a good idea, to say the least.

[5] at first glance, the dangers implicit in following seductive commands emanating from a mysterious and clearly powerful source should be obvious, yet they are frequently not, as all too often, by the time one hears the command one is already following it. the dilemma in this territory is that there is no solid distinction between a read-only file and an executable.. here, one ventures beyond the protective and orderly layers of the mind, which millions of years of evolution have constructed so well, into a portal-like territory in which there is virtually no limit to the variety of directions it may suddenly extend.

the lifting of those well-accustomed psychic restrictions can be downright terrifying, which fright can lead the in-built survival instinct we all have to kick into overdrive, causing massive self-aggrandisement, and effecting one's eventual return to physical reality not as the inquisitive explorer one went in as but as a sollipsistic god who has figured it all out (because it is simply too scary to acknowledge the enormity of the unknown that one faced). what results is something similar to people who go on an i-am-god/buddha/all-knowing-consciousness trip during the a&p, but more deeply ingrained and longer-lasting.

Per Yadid's suggestion, I thought of describing the ways in which these kinds of phenomena have affected me, and others might chime in as well. I think it is important to be aware that this kind of thing can happen as a result of meditation (particularly 1, 4 and 5), since being aware of this possibility might make the difference between simply having a rough time with some confusion and uncertainty versus having a full-blown psychotic outbreak, persistent delusion or something along those lines.

The way it seems to work is as follows:

(1) beliefs are things that "feel true," and it is widely known that they have the power to distort perception: what one believes in changes what one sees.

(2) under certain conditions of high-concentration and/or mental power, one has direct read-write access to the area of the brain where beliefs are stored, and it becomes possible to change one's beliefs. This might happen purposefully (mystical traditions such as western magick work with this), or accidentally.

(3) If the process gets out of hand, it might cascade into full-blown delusion. One changes one's belief a little, and suddenly things start to happen that seem to confirm one's belief (concidences, or synchronicities, or visions), causing one to believe even further, in a self-feeding loop that throws one into the realm of paranoia, or prophecy, or the divine, or imaginary galactic heroism involving satan, aliens and energetic entitites (link), or something completely different, or a mix of the above.

I have never delved deep into this territory, and don't plan to, but I have touched it briefly and superficially on two occasions.

Once during my first Dark Night, I started suspecting that people in my work were commenting negatively about my performance. Then I started feeling that I got "strange looks" when arriving at the office. Then one day a colleague told me he saw me playing saxophone through the window (he lived in the building in front of mine), and I interpreted it as an accusation that I should have been working instead...

Around that time, I had two hallucinatory episodes, one auditory when someone's laughter seemed distorted and diabolical, and one visual, when I saw the face of a guy passing by on his bike turn into the face of a person I used to be romantically attracted to.

Luckily these were so surprising and unusual for me that I decided something really strong was going on, and that the proto-paranoia was part of it, and that I shouldn't be fooled by it, no matter how plausible it seemed. It faded away as the dark night developed into other things (panic attacks became a recurring theme).

The other episode worth mentioning happened during first path A&P, when I became convinced that the universe was an act of love-making between shiva and shakti, and developed my own brand of metaphysics by mixing and matching various things I had read up to that point. I can't recall the details very well, as I recall those times as somewhat similar to a fever. But emptiness was equal to space (link), and there was something about the point of infinite potential, and they had sex emoticon ...

I dunno, more importantly, I remember that I would sit in contemplation of nature and I had the distinct sensation that "everything fit." The imaginations I was spewing in my mind "felt correct," in a way that seemed all-pervading, all-connecting, and "just right." I would have internal monologues that would finish in bombastic sentences that felt true (e.g. "the universe is born of friction"), and then I would nod my head and think "of course!" and "it all makes sense." I would spread the message of love to all those who would care to listen, and pity those that didn't.

Then one day the dark night followed, and the dreamy reverie turned into a nightmare, and nothing made sense anymore, I was scared, etc many of you know the drill. Suffice to say, it was all a big heap of bullshit, and quite a humorous one in retrospect, since it bore no unfortunate consequences (though my family and close friends found me a bit weird for a few months).


The basis of all these is belief. It really really (really) feels as though these things "are true" and "make sense". They "sound right," sometimes to the point we downright "know that they are true," and if someone contradicts these thoughts, we may become angry ("who do you think you are?") or complacent ("I will have to leave as the general discussion level on this thread started to deteriorate.").

In a not-very-extreme scale, this kind of thing happens all the time, with everyone, so it isn't very worrisome in itself. It is just about having the persistent self-honesty and critical thinking required not to let it blow out of proportion.
Jake , modified 11 Years ago at 6/1/11 12:12 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 6/1/11 12:12 PM

RE: Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and "it feels true"

Posts: 695 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Nice post, thanks!

As someone who has been more than a little prone to creating fabulous, elaborate, and at-the-time seemingly elegant metaphysics, I confess this sort of thing is definitely something for me to watch out for.

In retrospect, the time between my first a&p and stream entry is like a long and winding trail of foundered, abandoned metaphysical/occult/mystical systems, and much of my identity has been wrapped up in creating and perfecting them, and much of my enjoyment wrapped up in experiencing the conviction born of mystical inspiration. Luckily during DN phases I would just be grumpy and irritable and lazy and quiet, waiting for the winds of inspiration to blow again, so no big problems with paranoia and such. Just a lot of vividly imagined metaphysical "insights" which I'm sure made me tiresome to many a friend, even the ones who were into that sort of thing.

On a similar note, on another board someone recently posted a link to a ted talk the punchline of which was "Want to know what it feels like to be wrong? Feeling like you are right." That's a good pith instruction.


P.S. I think there are implications of all this for developmental psychology and developmental ego psychology. A.H. Almaas has some interesting things to say about this phenomenon (the fundamentally affective, rather than cognitive, nature of belief) in this latter connection-- if you can ignore his own flowery metaphysics and his overly-determined psycho-analytic assumptions about character formation. He goes so far as to say that when the affective component of major self-representations and other complexes is withdrawn from the cognitive component (i.e., images and concepts), you at first stop believing in them (see them as empty, as not-self) and later in the process they dissolve (are "metabolized") completely and permanently, leaving less and less of an "inner world" of images and feelings, thus less and less emotional ups and downs (as these are tied to whether these internal affective images are threatened or supported by circumstances and experiences).
Steph , modified 11 Years ago at 6/1/11 12:41 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 6/1/11 12:40 PM

RE: Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and "it feels true"

Posts: 669 Join Date: 3/24/10 Recent Posts

I posted the above about a year back about a friend who went pretty far out there. I've since been out of contact with him, except for once, so I'm not entirely sure how he's doing now, but I do know he still believes in the mediumship aspect of it. When I saw him that once, he said the experience in India freaked him out upon reflection, so perhaps he has grounded a little. Point is, yes this shit really can be long lasting.
Florian, modified 11 Years ago at 6/3/11 8:16 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 6/3/11 8:16 AM

RE: Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and "it feels true"

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Bruno

Regarding #5 (but the other's as well, to various degrees): There's a nice one-line by the late Ajahn Panya (Student of the late Ajahn Maha Boowa):

[indent]The Citta is the one who knows, but it doesn't necessarily know right.[/indent]

Tom Tom, modified 8 Years ago at 11/11/13 5:35 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 12/1/11 9:58 PM

RE: Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and "it feels true"

Posts: 466 Join Date: 9/19/09 Recent Posts
This process is pretty much standard fare for me whenever I try to practice too intensively.

The first time I ended up in a psychatric hospital for over a week Jan 2010. Delusions persisted through A&P, Dark Night, Equanimity (they cycled endlessly over and over) throughout the period. The delusions were short lived and went away and were colored by the stage I was in. See this post for a description of just how crazy it was: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1032824

The second time I went on a retreat for 5 days. I came back fine, but eventually degenerated into delusion with A&P, Dark Night, Equanimity cycling over and over and colored the delusions. I ended up in ER, psychiatric hospital, was released, and in a few days was back in the ER to psychiatric hospital again. This one was equally as crazy as the first. Was released perfectly fine and recovered. Jan 2011.

The third time was only a couple weeks ago. I was meditating 4 or 5 hours a day for a month or so, during which I did a weekend long retreat at a meditation center (that might have been overkill). I ended up in the ER for about 3 or 4 days hearing voices and having crazy delusions, visions. The whole thing was like a "to be continued" of the previous two episodes. All the same delusions and ideas came back and were elaborated on, etc. I was released feeling perfectly fine with no delusions or voices. (I consider this one mild compared to the previous two, given that I wasn't admitted to the psychiatric ward!) Nov 2011.

Every time the doctors think I ingested jimson weed, or did some crazy drugs because the symptoms always seem to go away very quickly and I recover super fast.

Thinking back, most of these episodes may have came about shortly after I had been doing jhana meditation had been sitting for some time in the 4th jhana. At least the latest one did. I lost control of the mind right after I went into fourth jhana and made the decision to do insight practice on the state...

I'm thinking that eventually I will get the "dosage" right for how much I can meditate before this happens....

If anyone else is having problems with this kind of stuff, I'm pretty experienced with these "extreme" states by now ;)

Bruno Loff, modified 10 Years ago at 12/2/11 9:51 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 12/2/11 9:51 AM

RE: Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and "it feels true"

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Wow dude, stay sane. Someone experienced in this kind of thing that has managed to stay sane despite is an invaluable resource for others dealing with the same sort of stuff.

Do you have any tips or pointers for those trying to get rid of such delusional phenomena?
Tom Tom, modified 10 Years ago at 12/2/11 6:40 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 12/2/11 6:40 PM

RE: Hallucinations, paranoia, delusions and "it feels true"

Posts: 466 Join Date: 9/19/09 Recent Posts
The delusory phenomena tend to sneak up on me, and while there is awareness that it needs to be fixed, most attempts to solve the problem are misguided and often leads to further confusion. Someone in this situation needs to go somewhere safe and semi-restrained where they can get basic needs, food, water, toilet. The less you move around, usually the better. The mind will run through all loads of crazy stuff and eventually settles down to the point where it wears off. This is similar to someone having a bad trip from a drug, though more long lasting and out-there.

For example, here are the events in the hours leading up to my hospitalizations (where I needed to be restrained to some extent). This is by no means an exhaustive list of the delusory experiences I have had.

Jan 2010 - I was laying on the coach at a friend's house trying to fall asleep (after running around by myself for a week or more in my delusions) when the grim reaper appeared before me, sitting in a chair with a glowing eye. Yes, I literally saw the grim reaper sitting there with his sycthe and robe and everything (in the dark, but his figure was very very clear). This was after several previous "near-death" experiences where I already thought I had died, but didn't die. He then instructed me to solve this elaborate three-dimensional puzzle.

My body felt like it was completely dead and what little was left was being rotted away by the presence of the reaper. In my delusion i felt like if I didn't solve the puzzle I was left to live in samsara for countless thousands of years before the chance came again. The puzzle consisted of keeping a beam of light between two points until it ran up the top of a pyramid structure where it needed to fit in perfectly. I was exhausted and fallinlg apart, and felt that I couldn't solve it and was giving up, when out of nowhere a loud voice said 'BE STRONG" and my arm grabbed itself (without any sense that "I' was controlling it). After the puzzle thing ended

The grim reaper eventually stood up and made a sound like Mario Brothers (It is a meeee Mario!). He then announced that samsara was a wormhole world where you can choose to go to from the "loving borg people" realm. Beings who become bored with not suffering in the "loving borg people" realm can throw this switch voluntarily and end up in "Alice in Wonderland world." He said our time was up and he was taking down... He stood up and with his scythe he stirred a black hole type structure....

He took us down to the center of the centerless universe and a giant black hole opened up in the floor and I heard countless lives and voices crying out in pain because they didn't want to go back. I attributed all of these to the shining specks of light in the black hole, complaining and whining. Impatiently, I dove straight down through the center. The more I tried to do this the more I felt my body rotting and decaying...The more I went with everyone else circling around the edges the less I felt my body rotting away. I had given up at this point and didn't care about life here and went straight to the bottom as my body rotted into a pile of lifeless gunk.

At this point there was a shift and the voices changed to complete and utter benevolence [attribute this to a shift from dark night to equinimity]. I imagined them to be fairy-like creatures who then told me, "You could have been killed!" I imagined they were fixing up my body and began to feel better. There was a distinct gap between "I" and the "other side" which consisted of scary voices that were no longer as "real." Like in the Wizard of Oz when the Wizard turns out to be making all of the scary stuff with "smoke and mirrors." They told me my body was like a "dummy" and I definitely felt this. They described the world as this Alice and Wonderland like place where everyone can fool around as separate beings and realize it's unsatisfactoriness on their way back to the loving borg people realm.

They eventually became these sort of gnome-like behavior where they thought everything before "I" thought it, knew all of its reprecussions before I did, knew all the possible out-comes before I did, and always chose the proper and correct response and course of action to take, regardless of whether "I" thought it was correct or not. This was demonstrated to me visually several times as they built these pyramind like structures to thow out things from direct consciousness that were causing suffering. Temporal causality was demonstrated to be already known, and this was demonstrated as knowing future outcomes in a weird completely indescribable way. A sort of "many-worlds," but more known and understood. I visioned that I had already died many times through this process, but experience continued regardless in another many-world plane. I envisioned my friend coming out and finding me dead on the floor. I could hear his voice and everything, they carried my dead body out and I felt I was dead on the floor.

Suddenly I was required to let go of all body sensations on the way to the "recycler" that would lead to the end of this life. (This isn't the first time this had happened). The body felt it was humpty dumpty laid in pieces all over the floor. A voice at the end instructed me to let go of all of these pieces. After some time struggling with this, eventually what "I" at the time thought my "true welf" was emerged. A sort of "split" personality had developed and I was talking to a "chill" surfer-like version of myself. Or vice-versa. He seemed to know everything I wanted to do before I wanted to do it. Every moment in my life to exquisite detail, everything I had ever said, every tiny little moment remembered. He said, when we're "done" you can revisit all these moments too, if you'd like. But you probably wouldn't want to because you're life hasn't been that great. He said we were going to the land of fun and this "bardo-realm" just "isn't that great."

I tried to go "left" in the mind, he said you can't do that, and we would go "right" instead and it would aid in the process much easier. Eventually he told me to link all humpty-dumpty fragments with "christ" and a visualization of the cross (body is face down on the floor). The heat and pressure were massive, and I imagined that we had been laying there to the end of the earth's time (the earth was heating up and boiling outside, and all life was gone). I had an impulse to get up, but chill tom told me you can't get up, you just can't, can't do that, sorry. I felt if I did, my head would blow off...but it was already felt detached from the body anyways... He said, "never name your kid Christ." We then "christ" mantra'd our way through.

At this point I was required to get up and "share the suffering" some more. They say we "share the suffering" so no one person suffers too much.

I stood up and it was morning and I looked around and my friend came out of his room, and he took me to the hospital. I asked him later, and he said he heard me chanting on the couch and it was obvious I had gone bat-shit insane and he took me to the hospital.

As I laid in the hospital I was immersed in another delusion about how I was "dying" yet again, sticking my tongue out for some machine to end me. I was not sad as this was a "continuation" and just the actions of the mysterious Tao. At this point I was knocked out and I woke up in a bed in the psychatric ward.

In Jan 2011 (in the hours leading up to the hospitalization), I was in the bathroom as a "wizard" type being where I could comprehend causality to a ridiculous degree (telepathy with people not present seeing through space-time). But I was "bringing" awareness "down" to the place, just before thought. I was trying to get rid of the "voices" which sometimes manifest as hearing thoughts in hearing. Eventually a huge pressure developed in the top of my head. The pressure was so great that I swung my head up and down in a wild manner in the bathtub. I was completely naked, as I saw no concern for being such. Keep in mind this felt in a way beyond control and felt natural and causal. Eventually the roommate called paramedics as I refused to answer them as they wondered what I was doing. The paramedics kicked in the door and hauled me out naked. They tried asking me a bunch of questions, but all I did was smile as the pressure was finally gone and I felt great! There was no reason to speak, and I did not speak.

After some time in the hospital, I was released, but degenerated right back into delusion again. I had been laying on my bed for days making my way through the stages of insight (but in such delusion they usually exist in their utmost exterme). Eventually I made my way outside when the voices went away, and walked around the sidewalk happy, but then they voices soon came back and I found myself creating some sort of paradise world for myself in an elaborate thing that connects to some stuff from before, but which is too complicated and confusing and would take too long for me to elaborate. My body was shaking wildly, so I sat down on the ground in the devotional prayer position for something to deliver me from this horrid state. A few moments later I was picked up by some cops who said I smelled of urine. They put me in the back of their cop car and I waited as an ambulance hauled me back to the hospital.

In the latest incidence, I had been interacting with the same being that manifested as the grim reaper. In all of this there is the sense that I'm communicating with myself backward through time, helping myself along. So I was communicating with this entity in the sense that I was helping myself in the past, but there is also the sense that this is unnecessary. I had been degenerating into delusion for several days, even having one moment where I closed my eyes and traveled to a completely different "room." I was wide awake and walking around in this dimly-blue lit wide-open room after being in a small box like room that was my bedroom. There was a female person standing in the room made of blue-colored light whose clothes kept changing over and over. I stood right in front of her, but there was no interaction, as she was translucent like a ghost.

( This isn't the first translucent being I've seen. In the room of my friend a few days before the event with the grim reaper I saw a being made of white light that was very tall that looked like an animal of some sort I'd never seen. I got the sense that it held my journey in it's spine or somewhere in it's body that ran down to it's tail. It was standing there lighting some sort of contraption. )

Somehow I made it back into my normal room, just by closing my eyes and willing it.

Eventually I went to bed. I was asleep in bed, but completely aware of the whole dreaming and sleep process (or so I thought). I was instructed to go outside as the process was complete (I had the delusory idea I was transporting to a certain room I wanted to go back to in the past). For some reason I had no pants on, but didn't care. I walked outside searching for a new "room" in the middle of the night (probably the early am hours). I heard people making comments about me having no pants on, but I didn't care and they didn't bother me. In short order cops came out of nowhere asking me what was going on and shining lights in my face. They restrained me and called an ambulance, and that's how I ended up in the hospital a couple weeks ago.

Once in a situation where restrained with access to all immediate needs (food, water, shelter) the delusions usually go away within a few days to a week or so. The immediate memory impression of them fades, and all suffering that may have been so "horrible" at the time is then in the past and I move on,